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Iowa care center mistakenly pronounces woman dead, state inspection reveals

Glen Oaks Alzheimer's Special Care Center is facing a large fine after a woman it pronounced dead was found "gasping for air" at a local funeral home.

URBANDALE, Iowa — An Iowa woman was declared dead but found to be alive at a funeral home, according to a report from the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals website.

The documents reveal Glen Oaks Alzheimer's Special Care Center in Urbandale was fined $10,000 for the mistake. 

According to the report, a 66-year-old woman was admitted to the facility in December 2021. Just over a year later — on Dec. 28, 2022 — she was admitted to hospice care.

The report details that just six days later, on Jan. 3, a licensed practical nurse pronounced the woman dead. The nurse noted woman's eyes were fixed and there were no breath sounds. 

The nurse could not locate a pulse, and placed a hand on the woman's stomach and felt no movement, according to the report.

A funeral home was called to pick up the woman. The funeral home director said they saw no signs of life from the woman, and placed her inside a cloth bag, and zipped it shut.

When the woman arrived at the funeral home, staff zipped open the bag and found the woman's chest moving as she gasped for air. The funeral home called 911.

When first responders arrived, they found a pulse and the woman breathing, but no eye movement or verbal response. She was taken to the hospital then released back to Glen Oaks on Jan. 3 for continued hospice care. Two days later, on the fifth, she passed away surrounded by family.

Lisa Eastman, Executive Director of the center, released a statement to Local 5 News saying:

"We have been in close communication with the family of the resident, and we just completed an investigation by the Department of Inspections and Appeals regarding the matter. We care deeply for our residents and remain fully committed to supporting their end-of-life care. All employees undergo regular training so they can best support end-of-life care and the death of our residents."

According to the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the state's administrative code outlines the timeframes and options Glen Oaks has in responding to the citation. 

If the center does not contest the citation and pays the fine within 30 days, it will be reduced by 35%.

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